The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has inaugurated the first governing council of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015.The last governing council, which is the highest decision-making body of the commission, was chaired by Chidi Odinkalu.
While Mr Odinkalu chaired the body between 2011 and 2016, Bem Angwe, another professor of law, was the Executive Secretary of the commission at the time.The commission has had a chequered history of government interference in its mandate of promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria.
“We do recall the removal from office of Dr Bukhari Bello in 2006 and Mrs K.F. Ajoni in 2008 in circumstances adjudged to constitute interference with the mandate of the commission,” Tony Ojukwu, NHRC’s Executive Secretary, said on Monday in his welcome remarks at the event.
He pointed out that the aspect of government funding and operationalisation of the “Human Rights Fund still remains a challenge.”
“Financial constraints have been a major challenge to the realisation of a better remuneration and allowances for staff,” Mr Ojukwu said, urging the newly inaugurated council to prioritise the mandate and welfare of staff.Mr Malami said he was directed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, to swear in the council members on behalf of Mr Buhari, who is on a medical trip in London.
The minister urged the council to work assiduously with the entire staff of the commission in order to realise its mandate.On her part, the chairperson of the newly inaugurated governing council, Salamatu Suleiman, said in her address that nations are judged by their human rights record.
Ms Suleiman advocated an improved staff welfare, adding that it was unacceptable for the staff of the NHRC to be poached by Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who have better remuneration for workers.
She pledged to work for the protection and enforcement of the rights of Nigerians.